The Traiteur’s Ring (Book)
Written by Jeffrey Wilson
Published by Journalstone
This gender-bending mixture of military procedure and supernatural horror is certainly more distinctive than what you’re apt to find while wading through the glut of metrosexual vampire and zombie apocalypse stories that overpopulate the horror fiction market these days.
Things begin simply enough, with a storyline that more than recalls the opening of Predator, with a unit of Navy Seals descending upon an isolated African village to eradicate a deadly terrorist cell. Ben Morvant is our resident solider boy, a fiercely dedicated trooper whose loyalty to the cause is never questioned. Needless to say, the raid goes horribly awry and Ben finds himself eyewitness to the brutal execution of a mystic witch doctor who, naturally, passes along his mystical powers to the nearest person.
There’s more happening throughout this tale of an everyman suddenly confronted with great responsibility, and the character of Ben undergoes a pretty radical character arc throughout. It’s a satisfying one that author Jeffrey Wilson clearly revels in. The only problem is that the second act really brings an otherwise crisp and well-paced novel to a maudlin halt. Imagine the crux of King’s Dead Zone or Wilson’s The Touch dressed up in military fatigues and you have a good idea of what to expect. The opening jungle trek is undoubtedly exciting, and the climax finds some new ground to stake in well-traveled waters. But when the story focuses on Ben’s love life, well … it’s just not as successful as the material around it.
That’s a personal preference, however, as Ben’s arc is, ultimately, a successful one. I’m sure some readers won’t mind the oodles of internalization that Wilson explores. It also adds some heft to the climax, anchoring the story in genuine emotion. This is a story about a man racing to save his loved ones (friends and family) from the ancient, encompassing evil, so there’s plenty at stake from the get go. But as Ben’s soul-searching culminates, it’s also the very fiber of his being that’s threatened. So there’s no shortage of tension throughout this story. If I personally feel that Wilson could’ve told his story in a few less pages (a complaint I’ve also leveled at Stephen King from time to time), I don’t begrudge this stuff for working for others. With this particular story, I would’ve preferred a faster pace, but your mileage may vary.
The Traiteur’s Ring offers enough distinction to be worth a look for horror fans. It’s not exactly an original idea, but its approach is unquestionably novel. In this day and age, that’s all you can ask for.
3 1/2 out of 5